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Study Finds SpaceX Investment Saved NASA Hundreds of Millions (popularmechanics.com) 156

schwit1 shares a report from Popular Mechanics: When a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft connected with the International Space Station on May 25, 2012, it made history as the first privately-built spacecraft to reach the ISS. The Dragon was the result of a decision 6 years prior -- in 2006, NASA made an "unprecedented" investment in SpaceX technology. A new financial analysis shows that the investment has paid off, and the government found one of the true bargains of the 21st century when it invested in SpaceX. A new research paper by Edgar Zapata, who works at Kennedy Space Center, looks closely at the finances of SpaceX and NASA. "There were indications that commercial space transportation would be a viable option from as far back as the 1980s," Zapata writes. "When the first components of the ISS were sent into orbit 1998, NASA was focused on "ambitious, large single stage-to-orbit launchers with large price tags to match." For future commercial crew missions sending astronauts into space, Zapata estimates that it will cost $405 million for a SpaceX Dragon crew deployment of 4 and $654 million for a Boeing Starliner, which is scheduled for its first flight in 2019. That sounds like a lot, and it is, but Zapata estimates that its only 37 to 39 percent of what it would have cost the government.

Study Finds SpaceX Investment Saved NASA Hundreds of Millions

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  • by taiwanjohn ( 103839 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @05:42AM (#55545991)

    Seriously, when you're being compared to notoriously expensive "cost-plus" contracts with (largely) military contractors, it's not hard to emerge as the cheaper option.

    • In other news... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by AwooOOoo ( 1081997 )
      I'm waiting to hear that the study of the costs was so expensive, all of the savings have been lost...
    • Actually, yes, I found the actual details in the numbers to be quite surprising.

      Working through the details, most of the cost of using the shuttle to resupply the station turned out to be due to the fact that one flight per year was enough to deliver the cargo to station, but that's not enough to cover the fixed cost. The main reason that the shuttle was too expensive as a resupply vehicle was that its cargo was too high (all of the cargo that sixteen flights of both Dragon and Cygnus carried to ISS, from

      • From table 6, on page 30, the cost is $365 million per flight at a rate of one flight per year, and drops to $96 million per year at a rate of five flights per year*.

        Does that include the $1B+ infrastructural costs? Because the $365M can't possibly be total cost. Shuttle's total amortized mission cost was $1B+ per flight on average. There's absolutely no way that five Shuttle flights in a year only cost $500M total for that year. The only relevant number I see in your "table 6" is 365 thousand dollars per kg of cargo, not 365 million per launch. The per-launch cost is 2.5 billion dollars in the 1-flight-per-year scenario, 1.3 billion per flight for five annual flights.

        • Huh-- you're right. I misread the columns. Thanks.

          So, the dollars per kilogram drops by a factor of 4 as the launches per year increases from 1 to 5, but the actual cost remains at 1.3 billion per launch even at a flight rate of five per year. But because the cargo capacity is so high, the cost per kilogram is about the same as the Falcon 9/Dragon, and somewhat lower than the Antares/Cygnus.

          Looking more carefully, the recurring cost does include a budget of $1 billion per year for shuttle upgrades. So

          • because the cargo capacity is so high, the cost per kilogram is about the same as the Falcon 9/Dragon

            A quick google says the shuttle was $18,000/kg to LEO and SpaceX is $5,500/kg to LEO. Over 3x more is hardly "about the same".

          • The lack of upgrades, however, would most likely mean no decrease of future costs. Presumably, the only reason for the Shuttle getting cheaper in this scenario is the improved volume of the MPLM, plus the improved net/gross cargo mass. When it comes to total potentially useful mass delivered to orbit, the Falcon is still cheaper - the ~$60M-of-total-costs expendable flight has almost the same gross payload (around twenty tonnes) as one +$1B-of-total-costs Shuttle flight so it's much better for anything free
      • Given that Shuttle's original mission was supposed to be to _build_ a space station and bring large pieces back down if necessary - not to run supply missions - is that a great surprise?

        Most of the lifespan of the vehicle was wasted flailing around trying to find missions to justify having humans in space, in what was primarily a propaganda flag-waving exercise. The massive size of the thing (and its wings) resulted in the dangerous design decision to piggyback the orbiter instead of stacking it - with the

    • Seriously, when you're being compared to notoriously expensive "cost-plus" contracts with (largely) military contractors, it's not hard to emerge as the cheaper option.

      Cost plus contracts only make sense when the costs are difficult to ascertain at the time of quotation. When you are talking about something like the Apollo program, nobody really had any clear idea how much the whole thing would cost in advance because so much of it had never been done before. No sane private company would entertain such a deal unless the government was willing to absorb essentially all the risk. But at this point rockets aren't new technology so it should be reasonably straight forward

  • In other words, NASA shot itself in the foot and could have had a much bigger budget. That's the problem with saving money in a bureaucracy: it will be used against you as an argument to cut your budget next year. Better not to do it in the first place.
    • In other words, NASA shot itself in the foot and could have had a much bigger budget. That's the problem with saving money in a bureaucracy: it will be used against you as an argument to cut your budget next year. Better not to do it in the first place.

      Well, NASA as an entity has the problem of politicized goals. The on again-off again cycle they went through every 8 years surely wasn't conducive to anything but wasting money on research that got cancelled when the next president and party came on board ( and since I went there, O'Blama did not cancel the Space Shuttle program)

      All I see is that the system is working. We have private groups taking over what is more mundane work, and tweaking the candles for better return. NASA can do the science, and som

  • Zapata estimates that [ the cost of a SpaceX crew deployment ] its only 37 to 39 percent of what it would have cost the government.

    Sounds like it's time to sell-off NASA's space operations (or maybe just the non-exploration parts) to SpaceX.

    They seem to be doing a much better job of it. More innovative, cheaper, faster turnarounds. Is there really any reason for NASA to do anything in LEO any more?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @06:39AM (#55546127)

      I was literally touring kennedy space center yesterday, the theme of the guided tour was commercial contractors are going to take over LEO and NASA will focus on deep space with SLS/Orion

      • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @07:48AM (#55546361) Homepage

        Of course, we know they're not going to be doing that either. Even ignoring the continual delays, SLS is simply an impractical launch vehicle. Way too expensive per launch, and they'll never have enough launches to refine it.

        NASA needs to accept that it's not going to be a launch supplier, and switch to what it does best: R&D and exploration missions. And the new launch environment should be embraced. Think of what can be done when launch costs are much less than spacecraft development costs: suddenly you have a much stronger incentive to mass-produce spacecraft designs, since the incremental cost becomes so much less than the single-unit cost. Picture the era where we don't launch, say, 1 Dawn spacecraft, we launch a hundred of them, each to different bodies. We don't launch 1 Mars rover, we launch a couple dozen, each to different parts of Mars. Etc.

        • Of course, we know they're not going to be doing that either. Even ignoring the continual delays, SLS is simply an impractical launch vehicle. Way too expensive per launch, and they'll never have enough launches to refine it.

          NASA needs to accept that it's not going to be a launch supplier, and switch to what it does best: R&D and exploration missions. And the new launch environment should be embraced.

          Quite right. And it took an outsider (Musk) to ask a game changing question ("Can first stage rockets be salvaged and reused to save money?") because when NASA got started doing launches, that wasn't possible at all. So over the years as technology changed, nobody at NASA ever thought about it because they were too entrenched in the old way of doing launches to ask any new questions.

          • by XXongo ( 3986865 )

            Quite right. And it took an outsider (Musk) to ask a game changing question ("Can first stage rockets be salvaged and reused to save money?") because when NASA got started doing launches, that wasn't possible at all.

            That was true when NASA first started doing launches, which was in 1950 (project Bumper 2). The first re-usable rocket to launch to orbit was, of course, the space shuttle. So, NASA started doing reusable rocket launches back when Elon Musk was 11 years old.

            So over the years as technology changed, nobody at NASA ever thought about it because they were too entrenched in the old way of doing launches to ask any new questions.

            Or, more to the point, for the thirty years after developing the shuttle, NASA was not given the authority to work on developing a next generation booster.

            When they finally did get to replacing the shuttle... the replacement was to fund SpaceX to devel

            • by lgw ( 121541 )

              The first re-usable rocket to launch to orbit was, of course, the space shuttle. So, NASA started doing reusable rocket launches back when Elon Musk was 11 years old.

              Total pork-barrel. Some of the "re-usable" shuttle was actually more expensive than building new each time (largely due to the work being geographically allocated by political influence, not logistical sanity), but the pork must flow.

              SpaceX made "economically re-usable" happen. The more corrupt the government, the more the private sector makes sense (and vice versa of course).

              • The first re-usable rocket to launch to orbit was, of course, the space shuttle. So, NASA started doing reusable rocket launches back when Elon Musk was 11 years old.

                Total pork-barrel.

                Pork barrel or not, it was nevertheless the first re-usable orbital launch vehicle.

                ...And, so far, the only reusable orbital launch vehicle ever flown. (Falcon 9 recovers and re-uses the first stage: the easy one.)

                • by lgw ( 121541 )

                  Falcon 9 recovers and re-uses the first stage: the easy one

                  The part that makes sense, you mean. Nothing good will come of the nerd obsession with "just like the cover art of my SF novel" SSTO approaches. Re-use of the orbiter is just dumb until the day comes when re-fueling in orbit is so cheap that aero-braking isn't needed.

                  The goal isn't "reusable" but "cheap".

        • Of course, we know they're not going to be doing that either. Even ignoring the continual delays, SLS is simply an impractical launch vehicle. Way too expensive per launch, and they'll never have enough launches to refine it.

          .

          Sorry, but one size does not fit all. As well, payloads that might take three launches on a smaller rocket that can be handled by 1 SLS launch will be less expensive. Its why we have a stable of different Rockets. Smaller ones naturally being cheaper.

          As well, it turns out that we come up with things to put in orbit that weigh as much as a rocket can handle. If it's available, someone will find something that needs it.

          I think it's kind of like no matter you big your garage is, it'll always be full of s

          • Sorry, but one size does not fit all. As well, payloads that might take three launches on a smaller rocket that can be handled by 1 SLS launch will be less expensive.

            Since the SLS will most likely never launch a heavy payload into LEO (not even Saturn V did it in its three-stage version), you could easily handle that with just one launch on a Falcon Heavy plus some refueling flights. The same goes for the BFR of course, since that's a dedicated LEO launcher, too (without refueling). But after refueling, the BFR goes *way* above the SLS performance.

            • Sorry, but one size does not fit all. As well, payloads that might take three launches on a smaller rocket that can be handled by 1 SLS launch will be less expensive.

              Since the SLS will most likely never launch a heavy payload into LEO (not even Saturn V did it in its three-stage version), you could easily handle that with just one launch on a Falcon Heavy plus some refueling flights. The same goes for the BFR of course, since that's a dedicated LEO launcher, too (without refueling). But after refueling, the BFR goes *way* above the SLS performance.

              The amount of lift ability of the Falcon 9 is not the maximum that will ever be needed. 63,800 lbs to LEO 26,700 lbs to Geostationary orbit, or 16,800 lbs to Trans-Mars injection is nice, but it is a limiting factor.

              SLS block 2 will be 130,000 lbs to LEO, and 50,000 pounds to Trans-Mars Injection, and that is a significant difference.

              Are you a NASA employee who knows for a fact that there is absolutely no need for the SLS? It is very unusual for a Rocket to be built that there are no projects ever ne

              • Are you a NASA employee who knows for a fact that there is absolutely no need for the SLS? It is very unusual for a Rocket to be built that there are no projects ever needed to be launced with it. If a single launch will put 130,000 pounds into LEO, you can bet that there will be payloads approaching that.

                And if you want to make 2 60,000 launches of payload with the Falcon Heavy (it will probably be 3 because someone is going to have to assemble the objects in orbit, as well as the payloads being designed to be assembled in orbit, your costs are going to go up, and probablity of success is going to go down.

                Are you a Lockheed employee? Because if you are, you just missed Mars. Again.

                Falcon Heavy Payload to LEO is 63,800 kg (140,660 lb) [spacex.com]. Falcon Heavy will have a considerably higher lift capacity than Block 2 of SLS.

                As of September 2017, Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy both are slated to be retired. SpaceX will produce enough of the various cores to satisfy their current launch manifest and then stop building them in favor of producing only BFRs, which are projected to have a 100% reusable payload to LEO capacity

              • Are you a NASA employee who knows for a fact that there is absolutely no need for the SLS? It is very unusual for a Rocket to be built that there are no projects ever needed to be launched with it. If a single launch will put 130,000 pounds into LEO, you can bet that there will be payloads approaching that.

                I'm not sure I have to be NASA employee to know that. No official published SLS usage proposal to my knowledge ever asked for 130,000 kg (I think you made you made a unit mistake there?) to LEO. Everything assumed the high-delta-v capacity of the EUS will be used to lift things to cislunar space at least. After all, the EUS will be expensive so using it for LEO lifting is stupid. Plus, the cancellation of J-2X and the focus on the lower-thrust version of EUS is actually the direct consequence of no heavy LE

                • After all, the EUS will be expensive so using it for LEO lifting is stupid.

                  Kind of depends on who the customer is, and what they need lifted. I cannot make myself any clearer on that, so take it or leave it.

              • "SLS block 2 will be 130,000 lbs to LEO, and 50,000 pounds to Trans-Mars Injection, and that is a significant difference."

                Sea Dragon was intended to be 500,000 pounds to LEO and that was designed in the mid 1950s.

                Since the end of the space race the thing that's hamstrung developing bigger rockets hasn't been the technology but the _demand_ - and the demand has been set by countries building lainchers telling customers what's available.

                An analogy is the way the telcos used to dictate how much bandwidth was n

                • Sea Dragon was intended to be 500,000 pounds to LEO and that was designed in the mid 1950s.

                  You are actually bringing up Sea Dragon?

                  It's like on a football team, the best player is the second string quarterback that has never played.

                  The Sea Dragon has compiled a perfect launch record, you have to give it that.

                  Hard to imagine that this wonderful Rocket has never been built, the humongous engine never even been tested. A company that has no experience with liquid fueled turbopump rockets should be able to build the huge Rocket Nozzle, the fuel costs are fairly cheap, and Compressed Lquid NI

          • "payloads that might take three launches on a smaller rocket that can be handled by 1 SLS launch will be less expensive."

            Assuming that SpaceX or someone else hasn't come up with a booster capable of 3x the payload already.

            Fuel costs are the least important part of the rocketry equation.

            They didn't mattered hugely in the space race days either. The _actual_ problem was getting enough payload (including fuel) into space in a single launch to do the job at hand (going to the moon and back without the crew dyin

        • Think of what can be done when launch costs are much less than spacecraft development costs:

          I think a lot of software devs are going to be.... wait for it...... "upset".

          eh? EH? Shout-out to the one over-worked RF engineer in the back who gets it. I'm here all week. Try the veal.

      • by idji ( 984038 )
        That's what Obama rightly did to NASA years ago. We knew that - and it's good and right.
    • by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @10:27AM (#55547227)

      Zapata estimates that [ the cost of a SpaceX crew deployment ] its only 37 to 39 percent of what it would have cost the government.

      Sounds like it's time to sell-off NASA's space operations (or maybe just the non-exploration parts) to SpaceX.

      They seem to be doing a much better job of it. More innovative, cheaper, faster turnarounds. Is there really any reason for NASA to do anything in LEO any more?

      Hey I have an idea. Spacex is so good, we need to Eliminate NASA, destroy the launch facilities, and restore Cape Canaveral to the wildlife only refuge is is, and Spacex will take over and we'll save so much money we'll finally be winning.

      Only makes sense, Spacex will start making engines on production lines that will dwarf anything NASA ever made, I'm expecting with their expertise that 10 million pounds of thrust should be just a CAD design away.

      Sorry to ridicule you, but it's a partnership. Spacex is doing the work that can be profitable.

      More's the pity that people are seeing the system working like it should, and decide that the outfit that makes all this stuff possible through development of the technology then transferring it to private enterprise is somehow the bad guy.

      IOW, Spacex is getting the stuff that is reduced to practice, and tweaking the hell out of it to improve it, and now NASA still provides the facilities, and doesn't have to do the mundane work, and can continue to work on the balls to the wall stuff that sure as hell isn't ready to transfer yet. You need to research the F1 engines used on the Saturn, and now the F1-b's. Many superlatives like the loudest non- nuclear detonation noise made by humans, the emplacement of Mission control based on a minimum survivable distance from the launchpad to realize that private industry isn't going to develop much less take on that responsibility.

      • Spacex will start making engines on production lines that will dwarf anything NASA ever made

        They're already doing it. SpaceX is now manufacturing something like 200 engines per year on their production line - the thrust equivalent of five Saturn V first stages per year. Perhaps they're manufacturing even more by now.

        • Spacex will start making engines on production lines that will dwarf anything NASA ever made

          They're already doing it. SpaceX is now manufacturing something like 200 engines per year on their production line - the thrust equivalent of five Saturn V first stages per year. Perhaps they're manufacturing even more by now.

          Now tell me, Is Spacex doing this out of whole cloth? Thrust equivalence is severely amusing. You coulf probably take several billion Estes Rocket engines and try top make them the Equivalent of an F1B. Gonna power a roicket to Mars or launch a intel Satellite with Estes engines. Which is all to say, my comparison is as ridiculous as your attempt to combine thrust from each engine that Spacex has made.

          Argue with statements that make sense, not weird cherry picking of irrelevant data.

          • Now tell me, Is Spacex doing this out of whole cloth?

            Of course not, you can't make rocket engines out of cloth.

            Thrust equivalence is severely amusing.

            Why? Thrust is roughly proportional to GLOW which is roughly proportional to lift capability. In fact, Falcons have payload mass fraction of GLOW pretty damn high compared to competition, so that makes it even more impressive. So the fact that SpaceX is manufacturing a crapload of engines right now is quite relevant to what you were asking. After all, it's the least advantageous measure of the production line you were asking for.

            • Now tell me, Is Spacex doing this out of whole cloth?

              Of course not, you can't make rocket engines out of cloth.

              Thrust equivalence is severely amusing.

              Why?

              Because that means that the Soyuz Rocket is much much more powerful than any other rocket, that's why.The number of Russian engine actual launches dwarfs an anyone else. I'm certain that the number of fireworks ever set off become a substantial rocket by your metric. Anyhow, you're kind of reaching trolling territory, although I did like the cloth rocket joke. You're trying to box me into an anti-Spacex position, and it is annoying.

              tl;dr version. All of Spacex's engines are not going to make one huge la

              • Because that means that the Soyuz Rocket is much much more powerful than any other rocket, that's why.

                Production-line-wise, it is. The high point of Soyuz was in late 1970s (1979, I think?) with 47 (!) launches of just Soyuz-U in a single year (that's without counting the less-frequent variants like the Molniyas (7 flights in 1979)), lifting ~300 metric tonnes with Soyuz-U's to LEO within that year. That's five 1MN engines per stage and 235 first stage engines just for the Soyuz-U's, and the payload lifted about doubles NASA's all-time high annual Shuttle payload of about 150mt lifted in 1985. The thing is,

                • Because that means that the Soyuz Rocket is much much more powerful than any other rocket, that's why.

                  Production-line-wise, it is.

                  What a concept. I need to lift X weight to X orbit. What Launch system do I use? Tell me exactly where your pointless metric has anything to do with that.

                  Anyhow, Your metric means nothing and is silly. I have you seemingly claiming that the thrust isn't important, because of total number of engines produced, and another claiming it isn't but Spacex has super dooper rockets coming on line that will dwarf anything that NASA is able to create, then it changes to being important.

                  I't like arguing with peop

                  • Your metric means nothing and is silly

                    You meant your metric [slashdot.org]?

                    I have you seemingly claiming that the thrust isn't important

                    You mean the part where I claim that thrust IS important [slashdot.org]?

                    Gee, you can't even troll properly.

                    and that thrust isn't important until Spacex comes out with the BDR rockets and then it is really important.

                    What? It's equally important before and after. You can't lift off from Earth without thrust. The only time it's less important is in orbit.

      • IOW, Spacex is getting the stuff that is reduced to practice, and tweaking the hell out of it to improve it, and now NASA still provides the facilities, and doesn't have to do the mundane work, and can continue to work on the balls to the wall stuff that sure as hell isn't ready to transfer yet. You need to research the F1 engines used on the Saturn, and now the F1-b's. Many superlatives like the loudest non- nuclear detonation noise made by humans, the emplacement of Mission control based on a minimum survivable distance from the launchpad to realize that private industry isn't going to develop much less take on that responsibility.

        Everything you know is correct, and obsolete.

        SpaceX pays NASA for those facilities. They have a long term lease on pad 39A now, and will have others. NASA doesn't "provide" Cape Canaveral launch pads out of the goodness of their hearts. They get paid for it, and get paid a fee every time SpaceX launches from one of them. For ISS resupply missions, that's effectively the government paying itself, but for all the myriad commercial payloads SpaceX launches, NASA's costs are covered by the fee. (Not profit

  • Spacex cheaper because the bulk of the research already done by NASA and that cost was added in NASA launches but effectively Spacex got it for free. NASA likely could do a lot of mission cheaper now and in it had gone into fabrication and not contracting it out, even cheaper, with lobbyists ensuring massive hidden profit margins for contractors (set profit margin, no problem inflate costs, simply pay higher wages to executives who do nothing, active pointless nepotism and ramp up the bill and more profit a

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @07:02AM (#55546217)

      Of course ULA got nothing from NASA either. Nope, not a single dime from absurd cost-plus contracts.

      NASA likely could do a lot of mission cheaper now

      Yet they never did. Could of, would of, should of. Too busy lining the pockets of ULA executives.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        "Could've, would've, should've," dummy.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You need to read the Federal Acquisition Regulation and the NASA supplement.
      The maximum profit most contracting officers will allow is 8%, which is lower than private industry, and they compare the hourly rates for the staff against other data sources.

      • by saider ( 177166 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @08:42AM (#55546581)

        This is why there is incentive to increase costs. More cost = more profit.

        The government often asks for scads of reports and documentation to show that you are following their accounting, engineering, quality, ... guidelines and rules. This needs to be delivered in their format, that they then give to auditors to pore over for years. Then there are "compliance" folks at the contractors whose job is to ensure that all reports are being done according to the contractual requirements. These contracts will often reference multiple contradictory government and industry standards, setting the stage for a number of people to research and resolve these conflicts. All of this extra work is "allowable" (since the government cannot ask you to perform work without compensation) and simply gets worked into the contract, inflating the cost (and improving the profit). If you have a high tolerance for bureaucratic quagmires, then government contracting can be very lucrative.

        On the other hand, a commercial entity simply says "rocket costs 65 million dollars". The contract is a standard purchase order. Nothing more.

        • The government often asks for scads of reports and documentation to show that you are following their accounting, engineering, quality, ... guidelines and rules...

          [snip]

          On the other hand, a commercial entity simply says "rocket costs 65 million dollars". The contract is a standard purchase order. Nothing more.

          True. But imagine what happens if you don't do the paperwork? Something takes longer than expected - this is research, remember - or, God forbid, actually fails. Whichever politician championed the project to begin with could be facing a Congressional subpoena to explain what went wrong. That person isn't going to want to wait 6 months for a post-mortem, he's* going to want all the info already compiled.

          * And yes, let's assume it's probably going to be a "he".

      • The maximum profit most contracting officers will allow is 8%, which is lower than private industry

        That's the problem.

        If you tell me that my maximum profit margin is 8%, well, I'll do the math. If I spend $100M I can charge you $108M and I make $8M. If I spend $1B, I can charge you $1.08B, and I make $80M. Plus, the bigger the budget the easier it is to hide more profit in it.

        Moreover, I not only want to do this, I have to do this, and i have to do it because 8% is lower than private industry. Even on the government dole, I still need private sector investment from time to time, and I need to be ab

    • Spacex cheaper because the bulk of the research already done by NASA and that cost was added in NASA launches but effectively Spacex got it for free.

      That's funny because SpaceX is the only company in the US manufacturing their engines at such low costs. So if SpaceX "got it for free", why none of the other companies that "got it for free" hadn't done it before them? Only a very naive person could possibly believe there's no research involved. [youtube.com]

  • Thanks, Obama (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Miss you, buddy.

    • Blind Squirrel (Score:2, Interesting)

      by nicoleb_x ( 1571029 )

      "A few weeks after killing the U.S.A.â(TM)s world-famous moon-mission program, President Obama has ordered the space agency that operates it to focus on reaching out to Muslim countries."

      Yep, Obama got lucky that somebody else picked up the baton for NASA.

  • Tesla Motors, despite all the hype and love showered here, shows no signs of ever showing a profit [battleswarmblog.com].

  • Kind of a shot over the bow of the crowd suggesting the government shouldn't pick winners. Sometimes government is the only entity with a big enough footprint to get a new technology over the startup finish line. DARPA does it routinely for military tech and we have a universe of modern tech that started as a DARPA project. There's a long list of winners but what's the one 40% of America focuses on? The solar panel place. Not all of them pan out.

    We shouldn't be limited to military tech for the government

  • I'm not a zealot that demands we privatize everything, but it's practically certain that the private sector can and will do almost anything cheaper than a government agency.

  • Not trying to start a flame war or anything, but heard they pushed some bills, only companies with US can bid for stuff. (chose ISRO because of cheap and efficient reputation...)
  • I get so sick of all of the Elon haters here, where are you now?

  • NASA patting itself on the back.
    Paying out giant bonuses, buying Russian rockets to actually do anything useful and occasionally smashing stuff into the ground or the ocean is not a formula for cost savings.
    Face it, wholesale outsourcing of space would have never gotten the US to the moon.

    "There's a silly notion that failure's not an option at NASA. Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough." - Elon Musk

You mean you didn't *know* she was off making lots of little phone companies?

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